Bearing God's Name: Why Sinai Still Matters by Carmen Joy Imes
Dr. Imes teaches Old Testament at Prairie College in Alberta, Canada. In this relatively easy-to-read theological book, she dives in to why and how the Old Testament still matters in light of the New Testament. For those of us who are familiar with the Old Testament, we know that Mount Sinai is famous for where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments after leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. However, Sinai is so much more important and prevalent throughout the Bible than just in the book of Exodus. Imes covers thorough ground in both parts of the Bible proving this.
"At Sinai, everything changes. At Sinai, the Hebrews discover who they are and, more importantly, whose they are."
An important point Dr. Imes makes is how modern Christians skew the Ten Commandments and the law. We tend to view laws and rules as chafing, yet Moses and the Israelites viewed the law as a gift. During the same time period, people who worshipped pagan gods did not know to whom they were praying, or even necessarily what they had done wrong. Yahweh, the God of the Bible, chose the Israelites, delivered them from slavery, and then told them what was expected from them. This doesn't mean that salvation comes by works. It's important to remember that God saved them out of Egypt first, and then gave them the gift of instructions. As Imes states on page 35: "True freedom requires clearly communicated boundaries."
Another aspect of this book I found fascinating is from Exodus 20:7 where God commands the Israelites to not "bear or carry" the name of Yahweh in vain. This is commonly understood to mean not using the name of God or Jesus as a swear word, and while that is a good thing to avoid doing, it is too simplified. The Israelites had voluntarily entered into a covenant relationship with Yahweh, promising to worship God and God alone. The laws He gave were meant to set Israel apart from the pagan nations so that they might represent Him well. Therefore, failing to worship Yahweh alone or failing to represent Him well to other nations resulted in bearing or carrying God's name in vain. Dr. Imes relates this back to the original Hebrew in Exodus 28:29 where Aaron, Moses' brother and the first high priest, "carried or bore" the names of the 12 tribes of Israel on his priestly robes.
Imes delves into the unaddressed switch from Yahweh of the Old Testament to Jesus of the New Testament. She also dedicates the last chapter to how Gentiles fit into the covenant relationship with the ethnic Jews. She points out the various ways that God prepared His people for this eventual inclusion: His promise to bless all nations through Abraham, inclusion of Gentiles in Jesus' genealogy, etc.
There is so much more on these subjects throughout this book. I finished reading Bearing God's Name: Why Sinai Still Matters with a better appreciation of how the Israelites viewed the law and Ten Commandments, especially in light of their historical circumstances, and a deeper understanding of how to apply it to my life today. I would recommend this book to anyone who has more than just a basic knowledge the Israelites' journey throughout the Old Testament, and some knowledge of the prophets. Imes' book is for those who want to dig deeper into Sinai, and Ten Commandments, and how the Law translates into the New Testament and modern believers.
I have two great resources to recommend for those who are not as familiar with the Bible. The first is Angie Smith's Bible study Seamless which is an awesome way to get acquainted with all of the Biblical books, and see how they fit together. This second is near and dear to my heart: The Bible Recap podcast with Tara-Leigh Cobble. Tara-Leigh leads people through a chronological year-long study of the Bible. She has a 5-10 minute podcast for each day of the year where she summarizes what we read, addresses some more controversial subjects, and includes links to related articles and theological issues. I cannot recommend it enough because it has completely changed my life. You can start at any time and work through at your own pace. I highly encourage you to start in Genesis; otherwise, you will miss out on some beautiful aspects of who God is and what He has done. There's no time like the present :) Please check both of these resources out!